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Built for the Long Run: 4 Transformative Ways an MHA Impacted Eric Johnson’s Life

Written by Molly Forman on Jan 22, 2020

Related content: Outcomes, Digital Education

On the surface, running and learning are different: one physical, the other cognitive. But for avid practitioners, success for both is premised on continuous improvement and transformation, not reaching a (constantly shifting) finish line. Eric Johnson—an ultramarathon runner—knows this all too well.

Today, Eric is a leader in his role in financial planning and analytics at Adventist Health, thanks in part to his Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree. Offered through the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University and powered by 2U, the MHA@GW program taught Eric more than health care management. Read on for four reasons why he considers attending MHA@GW the most transformative decision he made for his career.

Professional evolution in an unexpected place.

Eric completed an undergraduate degree in accounting, and landed a mint job at Ernst & Young. “After five years, I decided to explore how to advance and evolve,” he said. He moved on to Sacramento-based Sutter Health where he once again felt fulfilled, but this time in medical finance. Nearly five years later he once again felt his career hit a cap. This prompted him to explore higher education opportunities that could help him add value for his then-employer.

Deciding what program to pursue was a no-brainer. Eric had always known he would get a master’s degree from the George Washington University, and his mentor confirmed that by placing the MHA@GW program on a shortlist of the best options for him. The online program maintained the rigor of a traditional education, allowed for schedule flexibility, and eliminated the need for Eric to relocate from his California home base. He knew at the end of the road, this degree would multiply his career options.

Flexibility to live life—without compromising quality.

With anything in life, it’s easy to make comparisons and wonder if you’re doing enough. Eric, for one, loves ultramarathoning—or running distances greater than 26.2 miles. He competed throughout high school and undergrad, but after college, it wasn’t easy for him to find the time to train, much less compete.

With an online education, Eric found flexibility in his schedule to return to his passion. “Even though I was working and studying for hours each week, I was able to compete for my fourth 100-mile run in 2016, in the middle of my program,” he said. “I’m grateful that I was able to participate in ultramarathons again.”

Eric found the ideal program for him—one where he didn’t have to give up his love of running, or his passion for learning.

A new network of career support.

For Eric, building a new network of contacts during his MHA degree program was expected. What wasn’t expected was the strength of the relationships he built–both online and in person.

This personal interaction started online; Eric often felt like he was sitting in the same physical room as his classmates. “I was pleased and impressed with the weekly live sessions in our virtual classroom—and the amount of collaboration made possible using the live video component,” he said. “That interaction was paramount to my learning.”

Eric and his peers got to know each others’ faces through the live classroom. Then, when they finally met at their first immersion in person, they picked up with one another like familiar friends. “There was immediate chemistry, because we already knew each other and had a working dynamic,” he said. Hugs were exchanged over handshakes.

He even met business-minded compatriots that would prove valuable. “I’m involved in a startup for a running product, and a guy in my cohort who started up his own company became a great person to bounce business ideas off of,” he said.

The three letters that changed everything.

MHA. These three little letters made all the difference for Eric—helping him walk out of the classroom a changed (and bettered) person.

“For me, attending this program really transformed my skill set,” he said. “I was incubated in finance, and as my career evolved, I knew medicine was where I wanted to go. I’ve been able to meld my various disciplines with the information gained from the MHA degree and truly become a healthcare professional.”

Seeking additional professional education ultimately broadened Eric’s personal horizons—and he doesn’t feel he could have done it without the MHA@GW program. “Since my graduation in 2017, I have also been fortunate to put my knowledge around population and community health to use,” he said. “I have served two years as an appointed planning commissioner in my community, where I am able to help make positive decisions that will have long-lasting implications for residents.”

Going the distance

Eric’s experience in a mission-driven environment helped shape his career, and in turn, helps him optimize patient care for every company he touches. “Everything I learned has significantly improved the quality of my work,” he said. “I added operations and admin to my wheelhouse—and did it at a world-class university.” This experience was invaluable, and Eric is confident this was the best opportunity he could have taken.